By Alana Dutson
While some Americans are deciding where to go on vacation, others are determining if they can afford to go back to college and have enough money to pay for day care.
The average cost of day care in Florida is $7,435, according to The Boston Globe. In comparison, the average tuition at Pensacola State College (PSC) is $4,000-$5,000 per year, not including supplies or housing, based on estimates from the PSC website.
Brittany Strong is a part-time PSC student in her final semester of the registered nursing (RN) program. Strong receives some financial aid but has to pay out-of-pocket for the rest of her tuition. On top of tuition costs, Strong has one child in day care part-time and pays for it herself.
“The cost of his child care (part-time, three days a week)…is actually the exact same as my tuition costs each semester. They are both about $1,300 a semester,” Strong said. “He only goes when I have actual class. Not for studying or other purposes.”
Strong was able to work out a deal with a day care because of her student status. “Those prices are super low compared to most because I found a home provider who really works with me knowing I’m a student,” Strong said.
Single parents are also going back to school to further their education. “Being a single parent…it’s nearly impossible without family support,” said Alhena Roberts, a full-time freshman in the RN program.
“College tuition is overpriced and unattainable for many, at least without some kind of assistance or working obscene hours at a job or two. Education and self-betterment should be accessible to all,” Roberts said. “Our city is a melting pot, which is great, but people who could be and would love to be contributing to our community simply can’t because of the education costs.”
Roberts receives financial aid in the form of a Pell Grant, but she pays for day care out of pocket. Roberts sends her daughter to day care three times per week.
“With careful budgeting and truly taking stock of our expenses, I was able to work out a way that I can achieve my goals, and my daughter can enjoy her own learning environment,” Roberts said.
As a single parent juggling school and day care, Roberts understands that not everyone may know the struggles she faces. “It is hard to understand the choices and sacrifices of those who truly come from a place of struggling financially if you haven’t experienced it,” Roberts said.
While day care is expensive, there are options for parents. According to Tina Isaacson, the director of Camp Fire, the day care center on campus, PSC students are given roughly $10,000 in discounts each year.
Additionally, students who are in need of financial assistance should stop by the Financial Aid office. All potential students are encouraged to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This application will tell students if they are eligible for federal financial aid in the form of grants and loans.
Students that are approved for a Pell Grant can receive up to $5,920 per year (this number changes from year to year).
Darcey Cosper, the associate director of the Financial Aid, Veterans Services and Scholarship Department, wants students to know that federal student aid isn’t the only aid out there.
“I would encourage all students to apply for financial aid, because even though they may not be eligible for [a] Pell Grant, they may be eligible for some of our other programs,” Cosper said. “Any student that does not apply is potentially missing out on financial aid.”
Cosper also mentions that students only need to fill out one application for scholarships, which opens the door to 257 opportunities.
Cosper has also seen a rise in non-traditional students applying for college, including parents.
“Over my years in financial aid, there is a trend with enrollment at institutions. Students are trending to be what is considered non-traditional,” Cosper said. “They are outside of that 18-24, they are veterans, they are parents or some other criteria that would not be thought of as the typical traditional student.”
Cosper is also supportive of parents who wish to go back to school. “If you can raise a child, you can go to school,” Cosper said. “You can be successful. Life comes at you fast, and you get caught up in the day to day, but you can be successful, and PSC is a good place for that.”
There are also other departments on campus that can help students apply for college and pay for it. The Educational Opportunity Center (TRIO), helps students fill out FAFSA, and Student Job Services can help students find work-study.
“There are a lot of good resources and good people here who are dedicated to best ensuring that students are successful, not just in their coursework but when they leave PSC,” Cosper said.
Despite day care costing more than college tuition, there are many opportunities for students to explore that can help pay for the cost of college tuition and day care.